Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pointe Shoe Video for Newbies

Buying your first pair of Pointe shoes can be intimidating and difficult. Even though most of you will have the help of your teacher, you can still make the process go faster and more smoothly by getting some education about proper fit and styles first. Check out this video from Russian Pointe that will get you started.

Pointe Shoe Challenges and Solutions

Here's a great article from Pointe Magazine, "Pointe Shoe Guide," for those of you who are new to Pointe shoes, or searching for a new brand or style. It addresses challenges like the difficulty of breaking in shoes, finding quieter shoes, and finding shoes that prevent blisters. Like the new shoe from Capezio, Simone, that has a new technology which helps you break in the shoes faster without sacrificing longevity. Or the new Jewels Collection by Russian Pointe that is made with less fabric, making it quieter.

Get all the details at the link above!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Exercises to Strengthen Your Feet

While you have a little extra time on your hands this summer, why not do some exercises to strengthen your feet? In this article, Fitness: Toe Pointers from Dance Spirit Magazine, columnist Colleen Bohenl gives four exercises that will help improve foot alignment with the leg, and help prevent injuries when it comes to landing jumps and leaps.

They're very easy to do, and are the perfect exercises to do in front of the TV while you're having that slumber party with your girlfriends! Check it out at the link above.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hot Summer Trends for Dance

Now's the time to throw out those old leos and tights that are thread-bare and full of holes and buy some new dance gear. Check out some of the hottest dance fashions, just in time for your summer intensives and dance camps, and all at affordable prices!

These cute polka dot skirts from Leo's Dancewear give ballet class a little more personality! At justforkix.com for $21.99

Leo's Polka Dot Print Chiffon Wrap Skirt 60-55

I love these hot shorts by Eurotard that come in lots of fun colors! Plus, they're a steal at only $12.50 on dancestuf.com.

Eurotard 33797 Adult Booty Shorts

Check out these really fun hot shorts from discountdance.com, for only $14.45!

Funky Diva Printed Booty Short FD4021

Isn't this a fun twist on the black ballet leo? A great option for when you're allowed to wear something more interesting to ballet. Check it out for $24.95 at discountdance.com.

Natalie Contrast Print Binding Camisole Leotard N8550

Here's a new leo from Mirella, featuring pleats in the bodice and rouching on the bust, and it comes in pretty colors. See it at discountdance.com for $31.75.

Mirella Camisole Leotard with Pleats M298LM

Check out this hot new line from Lacey at discountdance.com, featuring cover-ups, sweatpants, shirts, socks and bags, all with a funky design.

Cap-sleeved leotards are really in-style this year. Buy one in your favorite color at justforkix.com for $30.99.

Body Wrappers Cap Sleeve Leotard P450

It's all about color with these adorable Footundeez! Get them for $17.99 at justforkix.com.

Capezio Studz Footundeez H07RZ

For more of the latest arrivals and dance fashion, go to http://dance.justforkix.com/nav/cat1/new/0 or http://www.discountdance.com/frame_set.php3?mf=/dancewear/new-arrivals/page1.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dancer Advice: Summer Intensive Preparations

Emily Christopher attended Joffrey Ballet and Ballet Magnificat! summer intensives

So, you've been accepted to a stellar dance summer intensive and you couldn't be more pumped! You think you've got everything packed, but aren't sure if there's something you might be missing and you'd love to know more about the daily life at an intensive. Well, Dance Nerds Unite interviewed Kennesaw State University dance graduate, Emily Christopher, to get some of this inside information. Emily attended Ballet Magnificat! and Joffrey Ballet summer intensives while in high school, and trained at Impact Dance of Atlanta. It seems her training paid off because she just signed her first contract to dance and cheer for the Atlanta Thrashers (hockey) team as a Blue Crew member! Here's Emily's advice.

What are some essentials dancers going to an intensive should make sure they pack in their dance bag?
- Toe tape (for lots of intense Pointe work)
- Bobby pins, brush, hairspray
- Snacks
- Advil
- New Skin to put on blisters
- At least two pairs of Pointe shoes
- An extra pair of tights, ballets shoes, jazz shoes, ballet skirt and warm-ups
- WATER and a little package of Emergence C (You can find this at any store. You put it in your water and to help balance your sugar levels whenever you get overheated. Great to have in your bag!)

What are some non-dance essentials you should pack?
- A note book and pen to record the corrections from teachers or difficult combinations
- A granola bar or banana (bananas are great for cramps!)
- Theraband and a tennis ball to relieve cramps and sore muscles
- Jet glue for Pointe shoes
- Band-aids are a MUST have for awful blisters

Were you homesick? If so, how did you handle it? (Think about the first time you went)
Yes, I got homesick the first time I went away, but I always miss my family because we are so close. However, I made sure to get the addresses of my friends and family and we wrote letters to each other during the time I was away. It was a lot of fun receiving letters and communicating with my friends. Also, I had my cell phone and called my family once every few days to tell them about my progress. I missed everyone but I was so focused on my dancing and the intensive that I didn’t become too homesick. I also met so many new friends and experienced so many new things that the fun overcompensated all of my other feelings.

Was it difficult to dance such long hours on a daily basis? How did you push through and keep going?
Yes, it was difficult for the first week or so but after that your body gets used to the long hours. I made sure that I got plenty of sleep at night, I took tons of Advil, and I stretched every night before going to bed. Stretching at night really helps your muscles and you can tell a difference the next morning.

Did you do any training before you went to prepare? For instance, jogging, swimming, private lessons, etc. If not, would you recommend it?
I personally didn’t do any extra training before to prepare. However, I do recommend going to the gym and working on cardio as well as abdominal work. Endurance and a strong core will help tremendously during long dance days.

Meeting other dancers and making new friends is one of the best parts of dance intensives. Do you have any advice on how to make friends, especially since it is a somewhat competitive environment?
When meeting new friends, just be yourself. Never try to be any different than who you are. It is kind of scary in such a competitive environment to talk to someone new, but if you're stretching next to someone or warming up just bring up a little small talk and see where that leads. Most of the time other dancers will keep the small talk going, and that can lead into a friendship. Be careful not to talk during class or approach someone when they are working on their technique or combinations.

Last, how long were the intensives and when did you go?
Along with the summer intensives I attended at my own studio, I also attended ones that were away. The first time I went away to a summer intensive I was was 14, and I went to Ballet Magnificat! in Mississippi for two weeks. When I was 14, and then I went to The Joffrey Ballet School in NYC for four weeks. Being in the city was difficult because not only was I away from my family at a very competitive summer dance intensive. I was also introduced to a totally different cultural environment. I had to become open minded and embrace the culture I was in while staying true to myself and convictions in order to grow as an artist. If I had closed up to change, then I would of never of been able to grow. It was scary but in the end I learned more than I ever thought I would have and had a fabulous time!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Billy Bell - The Lunge Dance Collective - Part III

Sick of Billy Bell yet?! Well, there's so much to write about him, that I couldn't stop! Here's an interview that ran in Dance Spirit, about his dance company, The Lunge Dance Collective. He created the company as a transition company for dancers trying to break into the NYC dance market.

Just for fun - here's another great Billy performance. Here he is at the JUMP convention where he toured and danced this past year.

Billy Bell - Dance Training - Part II

Not only has Billy Bell made it to the Top 11 on this year's "So You Think You Can Dance," but he is also a professional dancer with the DeMa Dance Company, a Julliard dance student, runs the Lunge Dance Collective (his own dance company), has performed with Liza Minelli and other off Broadway shows! In other words, his resume is packed! Here's all the details, from the DeMa Dance Company's website.

Billy Bell was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Fl where he first started dance at the age of 12. He attended the Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Fl and graduated in May 2008. There he worked with many prestigious choreographers including Kathy Posin, Margot Sapington, Jeff Satinof, and Jan Hanniford-Geotz.

Now, at age 19, he has done more than most his age: He has danced with Broadway’s Liza Minnelli, and Joel Grey in “Back to Back to Broadway”; toured with Broadway Arts Productions as “Baby John” in their production of “West Side Story;” and was on season six (and is now on seven) of FOX’s hit television show So You Think You Can Dance. He has trained at Alvin Ailey, Joffrey Jazz and Contemporary and participated in Springboard Danse Montreal, where he has had the pleasure of working with many dance companies and choreographers from across the world. Billy also started his own ensemble at Dreyfoos School of the Arts called the Dreyfoos Dance Ensemble, and was lucky enough to be selected to be awarded a Silver Award and Presidential Scholar nomination from NFAA YoungARTS. He also was in an HBO documentary with Jaques D’Amboise called “Master Class”.

He is currently in the class of 2012 at The Juilliard School, in New York City, where he studies dance, and has been able to choreograph and perform the works of José Limon and Sidra Bell. Most recently, Billy set his first work, “Burgeon,” at Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Billy joined DeMa Dance Company in November of 2009, and is excited to grow with this new opportunity.

SYTYCD's Billy Bell - Part I

I was so excited to see Billy Bell back on the show this year, and he so deserved a place in the top 10 (scratch that - the lame top 11)! There aren't too many guys out there who have his incredible extension and flexibility, and he seems like such a nice guy. He's the real thing as a Julliard dance student.

This article ran in Dance Spirit, and gives us more insight into his great personality and talent!

Here's his video from his first SYTYCD audition!

Monday, June 14, 2010

And The Tony Goes To...

Any of you get a chance to watch the Tony's last night? If you didn't, you missed an awesome performance by Green Day, and other great performances by "Glee" stars Lea Michelle (Rachel) and Matthew Morrison (Mr. Shoe). Check out their performance below!

As for the awards, here were some of the big ones. For a complete listing, click HERE.

Best Play: Red
Best Musical: Memphis
Best Original Score: Memphis
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play: Denzel Washington for Fences
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: Viola Davis for Fences
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical: Douglas Hodge for La Cage aux Folles
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical: Catherine Zeta-Jones for A Little Night Music
Best Choreography: Bill T. Jones for Fela!

Fela! is the story of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti whose soulful Afro-beat rhythms ignited a generation. Influenced by his mother, a civil rights champion, he defied a corrupt and oppressive military government. He devoted his life and music to the struggle for freedom and human dignity. Fela! is a triumphant tale of courage, passion and love featuring Fela Kuti's captivating music and the visionary direction and choreography of 2007 Tony-Award winner Bill T. Jones.

See some of the award-winning choreography from Fela! here!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Jackson International Ballet Competition (IBC) Starts Tonight!

The opening ceremonies for the quadriennial, olympic-style, USA International Ballet Competition starts tonight at 7:30 p.m., featuring Rasta Thomas and his "Bad Boys of Dance!" Should be a great show. If you live in or around Jackson, MS or can get there quick, I'd make some plans and get tickets to see some of this incredible, world-renowed event. Over the next 16 days, along with the competition, there will be quite a line-up:

6/16 - Philadanco Master Class and Lecture Demonstration 1-2:15 p.m., and 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Philadanco (The Pennsylvania Dance Company) is a professional, non-profit dance company that specializes in modern contemporary dance and outreach programs to help develop young dancers into professional dancers. It is based in Philadelphia and is "celebrated for its innovation, creativity and preservation of predominantly African-American traditions in dance." (philadanco.org)

6/16 - Philadanco Performance 7:30 p.m. (tickets only $10!)

6/18 - Lois Greenfield Photography Workshop 10-4:30 p.m. Lois is a world-renowned dance photographer. You've probably seen her work many times and didn't even know it was her's! http://www.loisgreenfield.com/galleries/index.html

6/19 - Edward Stierle Contemporary Showcase 2:00 p.m. This showcase will feature contemporary pieces performed by dancers eliminated from Round 1, as well as special guest artist Brooklyn Mack. Brooklyn is currently a professional dancer with the Washington Ballet. He was a Silver Medalist at the Silver Medal at the 2006 Jackson International Ballet Competition, and has danced professionally with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and American Ballet Theater.

6/21 - Tutu.com Workshop - Tiaras 5-10 p.m.   Tutu.com offers "hands-on seminars and workshops will help you learn the techniques, tips, and tricks of ballet costume design and construction from a master costume designer. We teach the fine art of classical, romantic, and neo-romantic tutu design, construction, and embellishment, carefully blending the techniques of yesterday's masters with today's materials and technologies. But, we don't just teach tutu classes - our seminars cover a very wide range of topics, including bodices, tiaras, headpieces, several types of dresses, pattern grading, decorating, accessorizing, and many many other subjects"

6/22 - Tutu.com Workshop - Bodices 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. (see above description)

6/23 - Tutu.com Workshop - Tutus 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. (see above description)

6/25 - Project Tutu.com Runway Fashion Show 3:30 p.m.

6/26 - Awards Gala 7 p.m.

6/26 - Grand Prix Ball 9 p.m.

6/27 - Encore Gala 7:30 p.m.

For a full schedule listing, click here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Advice on Breaking into Broadway - Part 2

So, now that you've heard how some of the Broadway stars got their big breaks, you'll now learn how to train and prepare for the musical theater business before you get a big break.

How to Get Cast in a Broadway Musical 
From ehow.com, with additions by Dance Nerds Unite

1. As a child, teen, and while in high school, take as many dance, acting and singing lessons as you can. Perform in your high school's plays and musicals, and get as much performing experience as you can, as this will help build your resume. (from Dance Nerds Unite)

2. Study musical theater in college. If you are a high-school student, apply to colleges with highly regarded musical theater programs, such as Syracuse, Carnegie Mellon or NYU. A musical theater degree will help you develop your acting, dancing and vocal talents. It will give you the opportunity to participate in school-run plays and musicals.

3. Take classes in acting, dancing and singing. Whether or not you have a musical theater degree, take additional courses to continually improve your craft. Sign up for classes at a community college, an acting school or a dance studio. You may want to hire a vocal coach to sharpen your singing skills.

4. Try out for roles in regional and small, professional theaters. Build your experience and resume by performing in musicals outside the New York City area. Participating in these smaller venues will prepare you to break into Broadway later on. Plus, they give you exposure in the theater world.

5. Prepare your headshot. A headshot is an 8 by 10 photo of yourself (generally your head and shoulders), and it is the calling card of a professional actor. Hire a photographer to take photos of you; choose a picture that offers a clear view of your face. Take your headshot to the musicals for which you are auditioning.

6. Audition, audition, audition. Attend as many Broadway open calls as you can. Casting calls are often listed in "Backstage," the leading publication for the acting community. Before you head to your audition, practice your song and monologue until you are comfortable with them.

7. Get a talent agent. Many Broadway roles are cast through "agent submissions," meaning the show's producers only audition actors who have an agent. Thus, you will need an agent to get you into auditions that are closed to the general public. You can land an agent by performing in off-Broadway or off-off-Broadway shows, since agents sometimes scout for new talent at these productions. Or try to get an agent by submitting your headshot and resume to a specific agency.

Advice: Keep your chin up, despite the rejections you will receive. With thousands of actors vying for each Broadway role, the odds of landing a position are slim. Keep taking classes and don't stop auditioning. Find a day job. Living in New York City is extremely expensive, and most non-Broadway theaters pay their actors very little. Working a job during the day will pay your living costs, as you pursue your Broadway dreams.

Resource: Advice on breaking into Broadway

Advice on Breaking into Broadway - Part 1

Ever dreamt of being on Broadway? Well, dancing is only 1/3 of the skill it takes to be a Broadway star - you must be a triple threat. So, if you are, how do you break into the business? I compiled stories and advice from Broadway stars who were interviewed by Dance Magazine and Dance Spirit Magazine to give you the 411 on your Broadway dreams. There's no better advice than hearing actual success stories!

Hayley Podschun, who plays Tammy in Broadway's Hairspray, says to "to know the show, the character and the style of dancing before the audition, and plan accordingly. “When I auditioned for Hairspray, I went in with teased hair, a blue headband, a polka dot tank top and jazz pants, but when I auditioned for The Phantom of the Opera I wore pink tights, a leotard and I pulled my hair back,” she says. Also, she adds, just be happy to be there, and show excitement no matter what you’re asked to do. To cope with rejection, remind yourself that there will always be another part, another show and another audition. (Dance Spirit, July 2007)

Amy Spanger, who played in Broadway's The Wedding Singer, first got the Broadway bug while studying at the University of Massachusetts (UMass).The summer after her freshman year, Amy auditioned for A Chorus Line at the Theater By the Sea in Portsmouth, NH. The director, who had done this show on Broadway, thought she had "a lot of talent" and "could go to New York." That was all she needed to boost her confidence and pursue her dreams. So, she left UMass, saved money, waited tables, took acting, singing and dance classes, and moved to NYC once she saved up $2,000.

At first, she was terrified and very lonely, but she started scoping out auditions by getting a copy of Back Stage, and attended classes at Broadway Dance Center and Steps. Within a few months, she got her first Off-Broadway job playing Cassie in A Chorus Line with the Yorktown Regional Theater Company. Her first Broadway show was Sunset Boulevard, which she got from a cattle call, a type of audition where you line up with other actors and the directors chose you based solely on appearances. (Dance Spirit, July 2006)

According to allexperts.com, there are three types of performers: an actor, a great actor, and a Broadway actor.
"An actor studies acting, works at learning her skills and craft, practices, rehearses, gains experience and hopes to make a living working at her craft.  
A great actor is one who does the above but has great talent within them and great perseverance in pursuing her training and her art.  Most great actors don't really care that much about earning a living - they are artists and need to act like they need to breathe. And it is that talent, that need, and that dedication to their art that makes them great.
A Broadway actor is one who works on Broadway.  There are very, very few of these.  Broadway is a very small community with very few jobs that thousands of actors want." 

In fact, there are only 39 theaters in New York City that are considered Broadway theaters, and thousands audition for each role. A chance at landing a role is very slim and only the most talented, dedicated and hard-working will make it. So, if you're willing to change your expectations a bit, and be more realistic, there is good news for you. There are are thousands of small, regional theaters around the country at which you can audition and have a much better chance at landing a role. These are the best places to get your start in the biz and will help you get noticed in the theater world. It's just like making it as a ballerina - very few will be soloists with American Ballet Theater, but that doesn't mean you have to give up your dreams of dancing. For some, you'll find just as much fulfillment at smaller companies, where you have better roles and more of them and at least you'll still be doing what you love!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Green Day's "American Idiot" Now on Broadway!

Any Green Day fans out there? If you are, then you've probably already heard that their latest album is now a smash hit on Broadway! It has already been nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Along with Green Day's signature great punk rock sounds, the musical also has exciting dancing with hip-hop, punk, and jazz styles.

How did the album become a Broadway show? Here's the story, from the show website.
Almost two years ago, in June of 2008, fueled by a passion for the story embedded in the album and possessed of a desire to unearth and expand upon it, acclaimed Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer and Green Day began a collaboration to bring AMERICAN IDIOT to the stage. Mayer assembled an extraordinary team to join them: two-time Tony Award-winning composer and orchestrator of NEXT TO NORMAL Tom Kitt, Olivier Award-winning choreographer of the National Theater of Scotland's acclaimed BLACK WATCH Steven Hoggett, and Tony Award-winning actor and star of SPRING AWAKENING John Gallagher Jr.
Over the next 9 months, the project was developed in a series of workshops culminating in an invitation from California's Berkeley Repertory Theater to present the world premiere, just minutes from the famed Gilman Street concert venue where Green Day first came to prominence.
In September of 2009, with a 19 member cast led by Mr. Gallagher and an onstage band of 8, the first stage incarnation of "American Idiot" opened at Berkeley Rep. The sold out engagement was extended twice, breaking all box office records, and was enthusiastically praised by the critics. The New York Times proclaimed it "That rare creature, a true rock opera,", with "lushly melodic music, polished and precise direction", a "spectacular set", and "a vision of wasted youth that holds us in its grip". The San Francisco Chronicle called it "wildly entertaining."
Now this extraordinary piece comes to the St James Theater on Broadway.
 Check back later for more on the dancing in "American Idiot!"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

SYTYCD Stars' Signature Moves

I love learning new jumps, turns and moves and was not disappointed with the new videos on the "So You Think You Can Dance" website! All of the past star contestants who are partnering with this year's top 10 demonstrate and teach their signature moves. Check it out, starting with Allison Holker.

Cross Training to Give You An Edge

Do you find yourself struggling to make it through petit allegro, an energetic modern dance, or a long pointe dance? Then you should consider cross-training with aerobics and strength training for a stronger cardiovascular system. This will be especially helpful if you are attending dance intensives this summer, where endurance is necessary and you are injury-prone without it.

Many dancers find that running helps tremendously with endurance, but did you also know that yoga helps with both endurance and strength? This article doesn't touch on Yoga or Pilates as cross-training tools, but I have found they are perfect compliments to dance training. In my experience, because running is hard on your joints, it can add to your exhaustion instead of giving you an edge. I'd rather do more low-impact aerobic training like swimming or bicycling. Running tends to tighten up the leg muscles, so make sure you stretch very well after a run, so as not to lose any flexibility.

Here is an article from Dance Magazine June 2010 on cross-training, Your Body: Aerobic Edge. The juicy parts are below!

  • For cross-training, many dancers use aerobics. But research shows that a "combination of strength and aerobic training delivers the best cardiovascular health, and that strength training actually contributes more than all that pavement pounding." 
  • Some dancers recommend swimming, as it helps with breathing, muscle definition, no-impact, and is relaxing.
  • New York physical therapist Shaw Bronner, says that new forms of exercise that provide well-being and an endorphine release, and recommends swimming and biking if you are tired of being on your feet. She says that aerobic cross training boosts her dancers' endurance and reduces performance fatigue, which is a leading cause of injuries.
  • Cut back on aerobic training during busy seasons and performance times.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

USA IBC - International Ballet Competition

Just like the Olympics, the USA International Ballet Competition rolls around every four years. This year, it starts this weekend, June 12, and runs to June 17, and is always held in Jackson, MS. Ever heard of it? As a Dance Nerd, it is another event of which you should be very familiar! Well, here's the scoop, as taken from the competition's official website:
One of the world’s most prestigious dance events, the USA International Ballet Competition is a two-week “olympic-style” competition where tomorrow’s ballet stars vie for gold, silver, and bronze medals; cash awards and scholarships. Designated as the official USA Competition by a 1982 Joint Resolution of Congress, the USA IBC is held every four years, in the tradition of sister competitions in Varna, Bulgaria and Moscow, Russia.
It can be a stepping stone to a dancer’s career. The audience is filled with company directors interested in hiring dancers, and for this reason, many dancers leave with contracts. This is possibly the grandest prize of all.
I have previously posted about Rasta Thomas (Bad Boys of Dance) and Kathy Thibodeaux (Ballet Magnificat!), who were both IBC competitors and award recipients. Many other ballet stars began their careers at this competition, stars such as Nina Ananiashvili (Grand Prix 1986), Jose Manuel Carreño (Grand Prix 1990), Irina Dvorovenko (Junior Silver 1990), Adrienne Canterna (Junior Gold 1998), Sarah Lamb (Senior Silver 2002), and Sarah Lane (Junior Silver 2002).

According to wikipedia.org:
Competitors are selected by a jury of dance professionals based on written applications and video auditions. There are two categories — seniors 19 to 26 and juniors 15 to 18. During the performances an international panel judges each dancer on the basis of artistry, technical skill and musicality. Highest and lowest scores are thrown out for each dancer’s performance to avoid any bias from any single judge.
The competition consists of three rounds. In the first round each competitor must perform two solo variations or couples can perform a pas de deux selected from a repertoire set by the jury. Top scoring dancers advance to the second round where they must perform a modern work. These contemporary pieces may be eligible for a choreography award. Finalist must perform a classical piece from a pre-selected list and a contemporary piece in the third round. Points from all three rounds are totaled to determine medalist in the junior and senior divisions. Note that these rules are typically adjusted each year at the discretion of the judges.
Medalists receive cash awards of up to ten thousand dollars but the real reward is the exposure before officials from ballet companies across the world.
Jurgita Dronina - 2006 USA IBC Silver Medalist, Photo by Richard Finkelstein

Think you can make it to watch the competition? Well, anyone can watch, as long as you purchase a ticket!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rasta Thomas and the "Bad Boys of Dance"

Ever heard of Rasta Thomas? You might have seen his company, Bad Boys of Dance, on Dancing with the Stars this past season, or have heard of them to be featured at this years' International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS (see the promo video HERE). According to the University of Pennsylvania, Rasta is a "wunderkind and prodigy, winner of just about every gold medal at major international ballet competitions." And his company exists to "show you that men can dance" and "features the most versatile male dancers on the planet, including dancers from TV’s hit show So You Think You Can Dance. These techno wonders, can and do anything and everything, fusing hip-hop, capoeira, jazz and contemporary ballet into one awe-inspiring performance, wowing audiences worldwide."

Sounds pretty cool, huh? Who doesn't want to see a bunch of muscular, strong, sexy men - dancing?! It's not something you see often, and I think it's awesome that Rasta has created a company featuring men, to show that men can be incredible dancers, more than just partners for the ladies.

It's no wonder that his company is so popular - Rasta really is a dancing prodigy. From being told he would never walk again to being the youngest recipient of the Jury Prize at the Paris International Ballet Competition in Washington, D.C. Here is some of his trivia:
  • Born in 1981 in San Fransisco, CA, but spent his early years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where his father was a physician for the Royal Family.
  • His grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia in 1933 to Galveston, Texas. Their neighbors were hostile towards them because of their nationality, and burned down their house, so they changed their last name from Ramacandra to Thomas and started going to church.
  • Rasta started taking martial arts classes at the age of 3 to help him learn to walk, after being in a very bad car accident at the age of 1. According to an interview done by the Kirov Ballet, "Doctors said he might never walk again, that if he did, he would always hobble. In fact, the leg healed improperly so that it extended out of the hip socket at an odd angle." Pretty incredible, huh?
  • His family moved back to the U.S. when he was 9 so he could train at the Kirov Ballet in Washington, D.C. (He had begun taking ballet in Saudi Arabia at age 7 as punishment for being rude in his martial arts classes, but ended up loving it!)
  • Age 13 - made dance history to became youngest person ever to receive the Jury Prize at the Paris International Ballet Competition (1994)
  • Age 14 - he became a member of Le Jeune Ballet de France
  • Age 15 - he won the Junior Gold Medal at the 1996 Varna International Ballet Competition
  • Age 16 - he won the Senior Gold Medal at the 1998 Jackson International Ballet Competition
  • Age 16 - he invited by the Hartford Ballet to be a Principal Artist 
  • Made his premier on Broadway in Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out,” choreographed by Twyla Tharp, dancing the lead role.
  • In 2007, his company debuted at Jacob's Pillow
  • He has been a guest artist in numerous companies, including Kirov Ballet, Imperial Russian Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Beijing Central Ballet, Victor Ullate Ballet of Spain, Inoue Ballet of Japan, the Universal Ballet of Korea and Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tune in Tonight for "So You Think You Can Dance"

Tune in tonight again for "So You Think You Can Dance" on FOX, as they wrap up the audition tour in Nashville and Dallas, then onto callbacks in Vegas! It airs at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central time in a two-hour special episode.

I'm excited about the new format, bringing in stars from the previous seasons to partner up with the remaining top 10. I think the competition will be more fair, since everyone will have a strong partner and a crowd favorite, as opposed to being partnered with another contestant. What do you think?

I'm so excited that Mia Michaels is back, and eager to see what how the latest contemporary choreography is shaping up this year. I must say that I'm getting rather tired and bored of contemporary, as it all seems to be so heavy, depressing, and even ugly, especially in competitions. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I love to see some beautiful dancing, and a lot of contemporary is spastic and contrived. I want to see more variety, more dynamic themes and choreo. Bring it on!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

For Guys Only - Preparing for Dance Intensives

I found a fascinating blog called My Son Can Dance, which chronicles the trials and tribulations of a mother whose son is pursuing a professional career in dance. The mother, Nina Amir, is a journalist and is currently writing a book of the same name. This is excellent for you guys out there who are hoping to make it as a dancer and are seeking some practical advice.

In this post, she interviewed Rasta Thomas, known for his company, Bad Boys of Dance, about how he prepared for summer dance intensives, with specific advice for guys. I have long been a fan of his wife, Adrienne Canterna, who is also a talented dancer. Check it out!

How to Prepare for a Summer Ballet Intensive: Rasta Thomas Offers Advice (Part 1

Rasta Thomas